Perhaps no other person in history has received more attention than Jesus of Nazareth. Scholars and historians are eager to uncover the mysteries of his life, death, and resurrection. More incredible than the volumes written on the life of Jesus after his birth, though, is what was written about him before he was born. Jesus claimed the Hebrew Scriptures were about him, going so far as to say that Moses himself wrote with him in mind (Luke 24:44; John 5:46)!
The writings about Jesus that came prior to his birth are known as prophecies. Sometimes people think of prophecies as vague, Nostradamus-type predictions about future events. But biblical prophecies are anything but vague, detailing everything from the place and manner of Jesus’ birth to the way he would die. These prophecies (often made thousands of years before Christ’s birth) demonstrate that the Bible isn’t merely the work of historians and poets. The Apostle Peter wrote,
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Pet 1:19-21
The biblical writers could describe future events in detail because they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, who knows the beginning from the end. It’s this heavenly knowledge passed onto the prophets and revealed in Scripture that confirms there is no God like the God of the Bible (see Isa 46:9-10). As Christmas approaches, here are three prophecies about Jesus’ birth for you to meditate on:
1. The place of his birth.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Micah 5:2; cf. Matt 2:1
700 years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Micah spoke of a ruler who would come out of the town of Bethlehem, and whose coming forth would be from of old, even “from ancient days.” The last phrase there could be translated, “from the days of eternity.” Here Micah foresaw that this eternally existing one would be born in podunk Bethlehem.
Why Bethlehem? In Hebrew, Bethlehem means “bread house.” Bethlehem is where the bread comes from! Jesus identified himself as the bread of life (John 6:35). He alone can satisfy our deepest spiritual longings.
2. The manner of his birth.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Isa 7:14; cf. Matt 1:23
Like the prophet Micah, Isaiah’s ministry took place hundreds of years before Christ, and he foresaw that the Messiah’s birth would be miraculous. A virgin would conceive and bear a son who would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” As with the Micah prophecy, this highlights the divine status of the one who would be born.
But why was he born of a virgin? The virgin birth highlights that salvation is wholly a work of God. In the Old Testament, God often raised up mighty heroes to deliver his people in miraculous ways. Some of the greatest Old Testament savior types were born to mothers who had difficulty conceiving. Sara was barren before she conceived Isaac (Gen 11:29-30); Rebekah was barren before she conceived Jacob (Gen 25:21-26); Rachel was barren before she bore Joseph (Gen 30:22-24); Samson’s mother was barren before she bore him (Judg 13:2-3); and Hannah was barren before she conceived Samuel (1 Sam 1:1-2). God worked against the odds to demonstrate his power and glory. It’s only fitting that the greatest savior of all would be born against all odds, to a virgin! The impossibility of the virgin birth showcases the divine manner of Jesus’ entrance into the world, and paves the way for the expectation that he would be the ultimate deliverer of God’s people.
The virgin birth is very important for another reason, too. Because Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18), he could assume humanity in its totality, and still be without sin. The virgin birth ensured that Jesus would be our perfect representative (Heb 4:15), sharing our humanity, but not our guilt.
3. The purpose of his birth.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Gen 3:15; cf. Col 2:15
Writing thousands of years before Jesus’ birth, Moses recorded this ancient prophecy about the offspring of a woman who would crush Satan’s head. While this prophecy reveals to us why Jesus came, it also foreshadows the manner of his death. His heel would be bruised, a promise that Christ’s victory would come through Christ’s sufferings. Jesus was born to restore humanity, and he was crucified to redeem humanity.
From the earliest chapters of the Bible, prophecies of the Savior’s birth move the narrative forward. Each book of the Old Testament is like a river bringing us down to the manger in Bethlehem. There, we find the promised seed who would deliver humanity by conquering sin and Satan. As we remember the birth of Christ this Christmas, let’s reflect on the entire life of our Lord, marveling at the prophetic testimony and rejoicing in the greatest gift of all: Jesus.
Editor’s note: We’ve created a Christmas devotional to help guide you into what this season is all about. Each day contains a prophecy about Christ and its fulfillment for you to read and meditate on. Sign up here to receive your digital copy.